A different ending

Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of my state-sanctioned big gay wedding. It was beautiful. I hadn’t expected it to feel different from my outlaw wedding in August, 2011, but it did, and it continues to feel different. Legal marriage is more powerful, which is probably why certain factions are trying so hard to hoard it.

Last night, at 3 a.m., my wife and I had a long, meandering conversation that we tend to specialize in at 3 a.m. And she told me something that I wanted to set down here because I can’t stop thinking about it.

We all work from patterns. You know this. We do things in the way we do them because they are familiar to us. We take our route to work. We show up for our kids at the times they expect us. We anticipate our routines because we created them. We built the patterns in our lives.

And, of course, our pattern in relationships has caused us to suffer. That seeking of home — of familiarity — often means that we end up with the dysfunction, dishonesty, and poor boundaries we grew up around. At first that familiarity is comforting. I know this! This is so great! And then we quickly remember that this is a story we have lived over and over. We know every detail and climax and revelation. We know exactly how it ends. And here we are again. Living the same fucking relationship.

That can be discouraging. It can begin to feel like there is something deeply wrong with us. Isn’t it enough that I came here with my best intentions? How do I keep picking the same same?

But here’s the thing. We are the shiny light in the dark. We are. We are chosen because we are glowing. Our compassion and empathy and kindness make us appealing. And sometimes our best intentions, our desire to love and care for another person, are used against us. And we begin to worry that we have drawn that pain deep into our center because we are broken and small and destructive.

Love is a story. Relationships are built on patterns. And we tell ourselves the story of love because we are going to write the ending that we want. We are. That is the endeavor. To live according to our best choices. To love according to our most ambitious desires. To earn the person that we love by being the person they deserve. We write each other into being.

My wife is the person I see most clearly in the world. And that is sometimes difficult for her. Nobody holds up to scrutiny all the time. I don’t always appreciate the way that I am seen.

Writing the story is hard. Sometimes my wife just refuses to participate in my storyline for her. Sometimes I have to remember that I am only writing my self, and she is writing her self, and the storylines twist in and out of orbit. We are not planets. She is the most familiar unfamiliar story that I have. In a constant edit. Unfinished. Unknown.

Anything might happen.

Anything.

Five years ago, I might still have said that she was my path home. To the place we have made together.

But it’s more than that. She’s the story I can’t anticipate. The one that tests every part of my skill and character and resolve. That shows me the ways I am not my best. But allows me, always, the chance to be better and do better, and be loved as though there were nothing wrong with me. As though I, too, am constantly rewritten, a more complicated sentence guiding me into another curious place. And somewhere ahead, a glowing light.

 

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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